Sunday, October 21, 2012

Does my new neighbor know he’s living next door to a tough guy? I don’t think so

I miss my neighbor Rich.  He lived in the apartment adjoining mine.  (We shared the same livingroom wall.)  He lived here for 12 years, and moved out 3 weeks ago.

Rich was a small & quiet man who didn’t make a lot of noise.  If he did, I never heard anything—well, aside from the night the Steelers lost to Greene Bay during the 2011 Superbowl, and I heard a muffled  ‘Nooooooo!’ coming from the wall behind me. 

(It was either Rich or the ghost of a real Steelers fan watching that game with me, I’m guessing the former.)  Our apartments are separated by a concrete firewall that’s virtually soundproof.

At least I thought that was the case, until last Sunday when the gayest man I’ve ever met moved into Rich’s old apartment.  I heard hammers pounding and cries of anguish for 3 days straight.  (It looks like he moved half of IKEA in there, too.)   He christened his new pad by plopping down a big flowery welcome mat outside his front door & then called up his friend Tommy while in the hallway. “All moved in Tommy, THANKS FOR NOTHING!” and then went inside & slammed his door.  Omigod, he’s a genuine drama queen!  I suddenly felt my machismo coming on.

I’m not sure why, but I always feel the need to balance out the testosterone levels in my general vicinity.  Why is that?  If I’m at the barbershop & a couple guys are jawing about beer, ballgames & broads I go into some sort of ‘mild gay’ mode and make a face, then curtly ask Angie to trim my eyebrows too, they’re positively RAGGED.  On the other hand, when my gay coworker tells me about the hot Latino man he met on his recent trip to Miami, my voice drops an octave & I suddenly get the urge to run outside and chop some wood or something.  

So last night around 8:00, I’m sitting here on the couch and eating a lemon cupcake, and reading “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch” (Nellie Olsen’s autobiography, omigod it’s so funny) when I suddenly hear a shrill scream through my livingroom wall.  My firewall?  My soundproof firewall?!  I jump up and open my front door & stick my head in the hallway, and now I can hear loud shouts coming from my new neighbor’s apartment. 

He’s screaming “Whore, whore!  Go on, get out!  Date whoever you want I don’t care!” and his visitor is saying “Just have one drink with me, c’mon”  and then I hear a glass shattering.  Omigod, really?  His visitor says “I’m going to walk right out that door, is that what you want?” 

Dude, I wish you’d ask me what I want!

I stepped back into my apartment, quietly shut my front door, and returned to my reading.  Then I heard a THUMP and a muffled “Get off me!  Get!  Off!  Me!”  I closed that sissy-ass book, flipped on the tv, saw “Star Trek” was on MeTV.  Thank God, Klingons!  I jacked up the volume, then stomped into the kitchen and heated up some sloppy joe sauce I made earlier in the day.  That’ll show ‘em!

I have a feeling that welcome mat is going to meet up with unfortunate circumstances if he’s not careful…  Just sayin’!  Shifty

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A little fuss, a little muss: The single man’s guide to Chicken Parmesan


I have a confession, which shouldn’t surprise anybody; when you’re a single man who lives a block’s walking distance from a sandwich shop, Chinese restaurant and three pizzerias—you don’t exactly do a lot of cooking on the weekend.

But a body (particularly a middle aged one) can only take so much chopped ham, sausage pizza & szechuan anything so sometimes you need to go into that kitchen and cook a real meal.  (By the way, people have the impression I can cook & I’m sorry to say that I don’t consider frying a pork chop or microwaving some Hungry Jack Mashed Potatoes as any culinary feat.)  But gosh darn it, this dish takes real ingredients, some real prep, and both looks & tastes real good!

ApacheDug’s Chicken Parmesan

  • Sargento sliced Mozarella cheese
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Ragu Robusto Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Sauce
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 thin-sliced boneless chicken breasts

1. Beat the egg & 1/3 cup milk together (do it in a Pyrex measuring cup—no splatter) and pour into a shallow dish, then soak those chicken breasts in the mixture for a couple minutes.  (I halved each of those 2 breasts first.) 

Now pour 1 cup of those italian bread crumbs on a plate & roll the wet chicken around in them—get them fully crumbed.  (Hey, do you have a bread bag?  Pour the crumbs in one, drop the chicken parts in & shake!)

2.  Have a nice big frying pan ready—heat up 1/4 cup of that extra virgin olive oil & carefully put those chicken breasts in the pan.

3.  Cook on low-medium heat, turning occasionally until they’re golden brown.  (Don’t worry if the chicken is fully cooked.  Trust me, they will be later.)

4.  You have one of those glass baking dishes, right?  I have a square one.  Add a little Ragu Roasted Garlic Sauce to coat the bottom, & arrange those golden chicken breasts in the baking dish.

5.  I laid 6 slices of the Sargento Mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken.

6.  Pour that jar of Ragu Robusto Roasted Garlic on top, sprinkle on a healthy dose of grated Parmesan cheese, & slide this into the oven, uncovered

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for around 35 minutes.   Oh baby, look what you got!

Now I’ll assume you were using those 35 minutes to boil some spaghetti on top of the stove.  (This makes enough for 3-4 servings, so it’s up to you how many noodles to cook.)  Ladle that hot sauce over a side of hot spaghetti & OF COURSE sprinkle more grated parmesan on top of everything—that’s why they call it chicken parmesan!


Friday, October 12, 2012

I may not take a good picture, but it’s that time of year y’know!


You would think with the number of photos of myself on my blog, that I must think I have one helluva face.  (Well, there’s not that many on here, but I suppose there’s enough.)

The thing is, it couldn’t be further from the truth.  It seems to me that regardless of one’s looks, some people always seem to take a good picture & some simply don’t, and I’m one of the latter.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad picture of my sister Shawn, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a photo of myself where I didn’t flinch a little.  Okay, sometimes a lot.  Like this morning, after I saw this one.

Last night when I was going to bed, I noticed my right eye was burning a little.  When I awoke this morning, it was swelled up.  This is like the FOURTH time in the last 3 months!   The first time I worried it was pinkeye; the second time my sister insisted it was pinkeye, & the third time my coworker Kathy asked me if I washed my hands after using the bathroom (because that’s how you get pinkeye).  But the local pharmacist looked at it that third time and wondered if it was an allergy.  She said “it’s that time of year, you know.”   No I didn’t know, but it sounded good to me.  (And for the record, I DO wash my hands after I use the bathroom—every time!)

Anyway, it appears I have it again.  I was scheduled to work from home today (thank goodness) so when 4:30 rolled around, I walked up the street to get some eye-drops, and to show that pharmacist my swelled eye again.  She wasn’t there, a younger woman was in her place.  I figured okay, I’ll get a second opinion then.  I approached this one & said “can I ask you a question about my eyes?”  She said sure & asked me to come closer.  She said “are you having trouble sleeping?”  I said no, and she said “you can try cucumber slices, they really do help; if you’re looking for something right away, I can recommend a good concealer.”  I said “For pinkeye?”  She startled a little and said “You think you have pinkeye?  You’d need to see a doctor.  I thought you were asking about those dark circles.”  

On a happier note, as I was leaving the drugstore (eyedrops check—concealer, no) I saw my dentist climbing into his car (dammit that dude drives a silver-blue BMW) and I said “Hey Doc!”  He looked up & said “Doug where have you been and what’s wrong with your eye?”  He walked over to get a better look and I said “I think it’s an allergy, it could be be pinkeye” and he asked if there was any discharge.  I said no but this was the fourth time in the last four months and he replied “sounds more like an allergy, it’s that time of year, y’know.”

I actually feel a lot better now, I guess it does help to see a doctor.  Winking smile

Saturday, October 6, 2012

If you listen closely to those voices from the past, you will hear a kindred spirit


Remember pen pals?  When I was in the third grade at South Ward Elementary, our teacher told us that we were going to start a pen pal program with another class of kids our age from England.  England! 

I was given the name & address of a boy named James, & I excitedly wrote him a lot of nonsense, and peppered it with questions asking what he liked to do in his spare time, has he ever been in a real castle, did he know who Batman was, was he forced to bow when he saw the Queen—it was  pretty embarrassing stuff, but earnest.  A few weeks later I got a letter back from James, and all I can remember him writing was that he’d never met the Queen, his gran had a cat named Winks that was blind in one eye & he had a dog named Sam.  Oh, and he knew who Batman was but “picture books were for kids.”  Dude, how old were you?  I was eight! 

I’ve been reminded of James as I’ve recently begun talking—no, exchanging some pretty long letters to be exact--with someone I knew from a long time ago.  We actually graduated in the same high school class, but the photo below is when I knew her best, in sixth grade at Lippencott Elementary.Sixth grade, Mr. Rumancik

I’m the one standing next to our teacher, Mr. Rumancik, in the ‘short boys’ row.  (My friend doesn’t wish to be identified—at least not yet—but she’s here too.)  We’ve been exchanging a lot of emails these past several weeks, so for now I’ll simply refer to her as my pen-pal.  When we first began writing, I told Pen (I’ve shortened it already) a favorite memory of mine from sixth grade.  At the time this class photo was taken, I was good friends with her brother, who was a year younger than us.  And in the spring of ‘73, he invited me to their farm for an overnight visit.

So that Friday I brought my older brother’s gym-bag along to school (packed with comic books, striped pajamas & toothbrush) and rode the bus home with my friend & his sister, my classmate.  I didn’t think we’d be seeing much of her when we got off that school bus, as we didn’t really talk a lot in school and I assumed she’d be off somewhere doing girl-things.  (You know, like at recess—boys had one side of the schoolyard, girls had the other.)   But the three of us wound up spending a lot of time together, and I was surprised at how outgoing Pen was, and fun to be with.  Later that night, after her brother got sleepy & went to bed, she and I sat up and talked about school and things we enjoyed doing, and I remember thinking “who is this girl and what happened to that shy girl in my class?”  And for the next couple days or so when I would see her at school, I would nod and smile hello at her, as if we shared a secret. 

The friendship with her brother didn’t last long, I think that one-year difference in age played a big part; but I also realized that night, when Pen & I sat up and talked and laughed (until her mom came downstairs & asked us to keep it down) that you can have younger or older friends, but no one really gets you like the people your own age.  And the older I get, the more this hits home. 

In a few short weeks, I’m going to be 51.  So why is it the older I get, the younger everyone else around me seems?  New neighbors, people I ride the bus with, professional colleagues, friends I’ve made online.  It may just be a year or two, but I am friends with people that are younger than me by a decade, and there’s even a few that were born around the same time I was in college or making my way in the world. 

 I received this letter from our congressman in 1978 for winning a dorky ‘Literary Award’;  not only did my penpal remember this, but the paddling I got from that teacher above too

I’m not saying that half-century mark is the only thing we have in common, but for some reason I take comfort in it.  To be honest it’s almost quaint, this flourish of letters on both our parts.  When I told my sister Shawn about all the recent correspondence, she said “what’s going on here, where is this headed, what’s the plan?” 

I told her I don’t know.  It’s not like we’ve exchanged photos of ourselves or even phone numbers.  I would guess we’re just sharing and seeing where it takes us.  (Or until one of us develops carpal tunnel syndrome from all the writing!)  I do know that a week or so ago when I learned a couple of our ancestors had the same surname and shared this with her, she said “I hope we don’t discover we’re related, I like to think of us as kindred spirits, not kinfolk.” 

It was a nice thing to say.  I said I felt the same way too.